Geoff's Reviews > Pierrot Mon Ami

Pierrot Mon Ami by Raymond Queneau
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Apr 24, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: queneau

Pierrot, the classical Pierrot, from the Commedia dell'arte, always loses the girl in the end to the more physically beguiling and wily Harlequin. Pierrot is a little more naive and bumbling than Harlequin anyway, what with H’s acrobatics, lithe body, and fancy diamond-emblazoned costume. Pierrot is always clownishly decked in his white body-suit with frilly collar, not too manly to say the least, and while Watteau did him justice, he never really received the grand oil and canvas fame that Harlequin got from the likes of Cezanne and Picasso. Still, one seems to root for poor little Pierrot, although we know that in the end the pretty girl never really wanted him anyway, and though Harlequin always comes away with the prize, there is something about the suffering-in-solitude of Pierrot that is a bit more endearing, I mean in the whole life-as-pantomime deal.*

Pierrot Mon Ami was my first Queneau, and I’m hooked. In addition to this being one of the sweetest, most charming little books I’ve read, it is also strikingly intelligent. Queneau (and of course when I say Queneau you must understand I am also speaking of Barbara Wright, who did this lovely translation) can go from phrases like “socked him in the kisser” and “cake hole” to words like “pilosity”, “dorsal”, and “crepitating” within the same paragraph, and it all seems a natural progression. Queneau’s brilliance isn’t showy, it’s all in the service of a very achingly human story here, and a strange, unique one at that; there is something of a sadness resonating behind all the funny little coincidences and encounters, such as in a scene where Pierrot finds Yvonne by chance in a small town outside of Paris, and a little beam of starlight, described as tired from its thousands of years of journeying, hits her on the nose and reveals her identity to the lost and wandering protagonist. It’s things like that, little subtleties of romanticism, that are daubed here and there throughout this tale that give it a lovely radiance.

There’s this kind of meandering melancholic joy that occurs in some good French storytelling- I’m thinking of Truffaut’s Doinel series, or especially Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot films (a contemporary incarnation I suppose would be something like “Amelie”, don’t know why all my examples are cinematic, but Pierrot did say he mainly liked going to the movies)- that Queneau’s Pierrot gets perfect here. It’s not resignation or indifference really, it’s a kind of wandering through life’s obstacles, obscurities, frustrations, oddities- bad luck, good luck, richness and poorness- with a kind of straight-faced not giving a damn, or letting the giving a damn subside to the wonder at the flow of events. Maybe it’s actually longing for something we can’t have, or never could have had, but that seems all around us all the time, and the longing being enough? I don’t know, read this book. It’s wonderful.

*Jed Perl wrote a brilliant book on this and all things Watteau called Antoine’s Alphabet: Watteau and His World. Check it out, it’s beautiful.
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06/26 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 58) (58 new)


Megha What a conincidence! I have this one arriving in the mail tomorrow. You seem to be predicting what books I am buying.


Geoff Nice! A psychic link between Maryland and India! I dig it. This book is just gorgeous, by the way. Henri Rousseau for the cover art. Oh Dalkey! See you're reading the Stew now, too. Hope it treats you well...


message 3: by MJ (last edited Mar 06, 2012 03:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

MJ Nicholls Yes! Oh, you're my two favourite GR friends. This is indeed a beautiful book, N.J. Furl is the artist here, he also designed the Dalkies Things in the Night and Bornholm Night-Ferry. I absolutely adore this cover. [/gush]


Geoff Wow! Those are fabulous! Dalkey has great book design in general, but these are exceptional... I've been accumulating some Queneau (this, Witch Grass, Last Days, The Sunday of Life) here and there, and it's high time I started getting into him.


message 5: by Megha (last edited Mar 06, 2012 04:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Megha Geoff wrote: "Nice! A psychic link between Maryland and India! I dig it. This book is just gorgeous, by the way. Henri Rousseau for to the cover art. Oh Dalkey! See you're reading the Stew now, too. Hope it ..."

I must have left something behind when I was in MD a few months ago.

I love this cover too, I still have to see the real thing though.


Geoff Ah, you were in Maryland recently? Do you have friends or family here? Just visiting?


Megha I visited Gaithersburg and Baltimore on a business trip (I am working in upstate NY now, so I didn't actually come all the way from India).

In Baltimore we happened to see the light show they had at Barnes & Noble.


Geoff Well, while a trans-oceanic psychic connection would have been lovely, an interstate one ain't too bad either...


rose vibrations Great review.


Geoff Merci stumbelina! I like your name by the way... I think I'll add you as a friend...


message 11: by rose vibrations (last edited May 02, 2012 07:32AM) (new) - added it

rose vibrations And I shall accept your request.

Thank ya...A bit of a fairy spin off of one of my favourite Smashing Pumpkins tunes..


message 12: by Richard (new)

Richard An eloquent and poetic tribute!


Geoff Thank you Richard! I like to think of myself as eloquent and poetic, but often I'm mumbling and prosaic! Damn it all.


Geoff stumbelina wrote: "And I shall accept your request!

Thank ya...A bit of a fairy spin off of one of my favourite Smashing Pumpkins tunes.."


I don't know how old you are, stumbelina, but I'm 34 and I was hip enough to see Smashing Pumpkins play a few times in their prime, right after Siamese Dream came out, and they were pretty damn great. I saw them outside under the stars one time and they played Silverfuck for like 25 minutes or something...


rose vibrations Geoff wrote: "stumbelina wrote: "And I shall accept your request!

Thank ya...A bit of a fairy spin off of one of my favourite Smashing Pumpkins tunes.."

I don't know how old you are, stumbelina, but I'm 34 and..."


Ah, that would have been a magical sight to see. I must admit that I am a tad jealous! And that certainly does make you quite hip.

I often find myself swooning over whatever live videos I can scrounge up from that Pumpkins era. They are one of my favourite bands, hands down!!


message 16: by Richard (new)

Richard Geoff wrote: "Thank you Richard! I like to think of myself as eloquent and poetic, but often I'm mumbling and prosaic! Damn it all."

You must learn to speak from the diaphragm and project your voice; then you won't mumble. As for speaking in prose, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Most people do it, as Moliere's bourgeois gentleman would probably tell you. :)

The only Queneau I've ever read is Exercices de style but I now want to look this up as well.


Geoff Richard, I attempt only to speak in the rhythms of the terza rima, at all times, in all situations.


Geoff stumbelina wrote: "Geoff wrote: "stumbelina wrote: "And I shall accept your request!

Thank ya...A bit of a fairy spin off of one of my favourite Smashing Pumpkins tunes.."

I don't know how old you are, stumbelina, ..."


I was with them until Mellon Collie, then I couldn't really get into their stuff. Gish thru Mellon Collie, though, amazing.


rose vibrations Geoff wrote: "stumbelina wrote: "Geoff wrote: "stumbelina wrote: "And I shall accept your request!

Thank ya...A bit of a fairy spin off of one of my favourite Smashing Pumpkins tunes.."

I don't know how old yo..."


I actually really loved Mellon Collie to be honest. And I don't even mind some of their stuff after that, but it is definitely no match for early Pumpkins.

I was actually just listening to Gish the other day and thinking about how damn wonderful that album is. Everyone I know swears by Siamese Dream, but Gish certainly has some beautiful moments..

I stumbled upon this lovely video a few days ago which is part of the Pumpkins reissues/unreleased material that came out last year. I thought it was pretty awesome and definitely brought me back to the old school Pumpkins vibe. One of my favourite tunes from Gish also..

http://youtu.be/nJFY_z5oI08


Geoff Oh I realize I said "until" Mellon Collie. I love love love Mellon Collie, and should have said "through Mellon Collie". Statement corrected!

Gish holds a special place in my heart. Siamese Dream was loved by like, the whole world, but Gish I felt like my friends and myself "discovered", though I know that's ridiculous... I have so many memories associated with Gish, old friends, marijuana, nighttime car rides, skateboarding, and adolescent discussions of the problems of life.

Great video. Thanks so much, stumbelina, really glad I friended you!


message 21: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy Wow, a Pumpkins party in a Queneau thread! How very deceptive ;). I love the Pumpkins, they were my favorite band in college, and I followed them around, saw maybe 10 shows by them. Definitely agree that Gish through Mellon Collie was their best stuff (and don't forget Pisces Iscariot!). I must say though, Siamese Dream is my favorite.


message 22: by Nate D (new) - added it

Nate D I just had a conversation about this yesterday -- how audacious a double album Mellon Collie was coming out of grunge. But my favorite might be "Drown". Nothing like driving home through fog late at night in highschool and hearing three minutes of beautiful feedback spilling unexpectedly out of the radio. I think that was Siamese Dream-era?


rose vibrations Geoff wrote: "Oh I realize I said "until" Mellon Collie. I love love love Mellon Collie, and should have said "through Mellon Collie". Statement corrected!

Gish holds a special place in my heart. Siamese Dre..."


Phew! I am glad that you love Mellon Collie. It is a very near and dear album to me. Definitely helped me work through a lot of troubling and tumultuous times during the younger years. It's one of those albums I always find myself going back to, and while it holds a lot of sentiment and evokes strong feelings of nostalgia for me, I am still able to listen to it as if I am hearing it for the first time again.

I totally understand what you mean by "discovering" that album. Not ridiculous in the slightest. I've had those experiences many times before. There are certain extra special albums that feel like they could be the soundtrack of my life at times..I always felt that sort of connection with the Pumpkins.

Glad you enjoyed the video. Now for something a little endearing and badass (and quite possibly one of my favourite pieces of footage ever!):

http://youtu.be/9hYPo2py77A

Look at that boy go! Mullet in full effect..


rose vibrations This thread makes me smile. Gushing about the Pumpkins is one of my favourite things to do..


rose vibrations Jimmy wrote: "Wow, a Pumpkins party in a Queneau thread! How very deceptive ;). I love the Pumpkins, they were my favorite band in college, and I followed them around, saw maybe 10 shows by them. Definitely agre..."

10 shows? Wow..lucky!

I LOVE Pisces Iscariot. : )


rose vibrations Nate wrote: "I just had a conversation about this yesterday -- how audacious a double album Mellon Collie was coming out of grunge. But my favorite might be "Drown". Nothing like driving home through fog late a..."

That paints a really lovely picture. I cherish those moments.

I love late night music drives period!


Geoff Wow, lots to catch up on (I had to step out to do actual "work")... anyway, yes stumbelina, I adore Mellon Collie, and it has that feeling all about it for me, of nostalgia and a kind of getting me through things... Gish-MC all feel like that for me. I can't watch that video right now (like I said, back at work), but I will later and thanks! You are amazing.

10 shows, Jimmy! Excellent. There are a few bands I've seen that much (Sonic Youth is one of them), but that must have been a great experience...

And yes, referring to what Nate said, it was really amazing to have that period of time when the radio was playing things like Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, Sonic Youth, etc., when you could hear all this pretty weird and noisy stuff on the airwaves... really amazing and I doubt things will ever return to such a place...


message 28: by rose vibrations (last edited May 02, 2012 06:47PM) (new) - added it

rose vibrations No problem! I do what I can..the video is kind of hilarious and cheezy but I love it nonetheless. I have the biggest soft spot for Billy, mullet and all.

It was quite the magical time when the radio was playing those artists and you didn't always hafta search far and wide to hear good music.....O, days of yore!!

I actually ended up spending my afternoon listening to Mellon Collie and feeling the waves of nostalgia wash over me like the sentimental sap I am. I fell asleep just as "Farewell and Goodnight" came on...such a stunningly beautiful tune and perfect for drifting off to moon filled melancholy pumpkin dreams!

I am also a fan of all the bands you just listed above (duh!)...Especially Pavement. I saw them play a few years ago and they were absolutely fantastic. I danced around in dizzy drunken circles underneath the fireworks that were blasting off in the sky as Stephen Malkmus and everyone in the crowd shouted the lyrics to "Range Life." (One of my favourite Pavement songs ever!!)


message 29: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy Funny that the Pumpkins and Pavement had a little tiff over "Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins / Nature kids, but they don’t have no function / I don’t understand what they mean and I could really give a fuck." Billy Corgan can be a little bit sensitive sometimes ;).

The only band I've seen more than the Pumpkins is Yo La Tengo, which became my favorite band in the early 2000's. But no band will ever replace the Pumpkins for that raw emotion I felt back then.


message 30: by Geoff (last edited May 03, 2012 06:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Geoff Yeah, but Pavement and the Pumpkins are just such different entities. Pavement is all wordplay and humor and wit and lightness, with a like a hint of melancholy on and off, and the Pumpkins are so super serious all the time, melodramatic. I love them both, but I can see where Malkmus would think that Corgan should just lighten the fuck up sometimes. I mean, the Pumpkins at times, esp. in their later albums, verge on silliness or self parody...

I saw Pavement tons of times back in the day, and they always had really good opening bands (I remember seeing them in Charlottesville VA with Mogwai when both bands were really young)... but yeah Yo La Tengo is amazing! I've seen them a bunch, too. Electr-o-pura is one of my favorite records...


message 31: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy I didn't get into Pavement until the last few years (I love them too, though), but I totally see what you're saying. They're like the opposite of the Pumpkins, they have this 'whatever' attitude.


rose vibrations Geoff wrote: "Yeah, but Pavement and the Pumpkins are just such different entities. Pavement is all wordplay and humor and wit and lightness, with a like a hint of melancholy on and off, and the Pumpkins are so..."

I never really got into Yo La Tengo as much. I'd like to check out more of their stuff though.

I digged Mogwai a lot. Rock Action is one of my favourite Mogwai albums. Also, they do a sweet cover of "Don't Cry" by Guns N Roses...

Did you dudes ever get into Neutral Milk Hotel? I loved them...In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is one of those extra special albums for me that I was talking about earlier. That whole album, from start to finish, is perfect in my eyes.


message 33: by Jimmy (last edited May 03, 2012 09:05AM) (new)

Jimmy Yo La Tengo is really fun... check these out, if you have time:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtBDlN...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBZrBi...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qjV4O... (this is my favorite song ever, by any band, period!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCNNV-...

They have a pretty big range, actually... these are just a few of my favorites. And yes, I love Neutral Milk Hotel. Who doesn't? ;) You're right, Aeroplane is one of the handful of albums I'd call perfect. (There are very few)


Geoff I also dig the NMH, but honestly not as much as Sonic Youth or Pavement, or even bands like Fugazi, etc. I love In the Aeroplane but with like two records, and the Jeff Mangum live stuff, there just isn't that much material out there. Also, when I was young I listened to a lot of punk and noise music (I still do), and sometimes that energy is not there with NMH. But I'm not saying Aeroplane isn't a classic, because it certainly is.

Thanks for the vids, Jimmy!


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

"Did you dudes ever get into Neutral Milk Hotel? I loved them...In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is one of those extra special albums for me that I was talking about earlier. That whole album, from start to finish, is perfect in my eyes."

I'm listening to this right now and I completely agree.


Geoff, did you say somewhere that this book influenced the French New Wave? If so, I must procure this immediately!


Geoff Tom Courtenay! Goddam! The memories this song evokes...


rose vibrations Jimmy wrote: "Yo La Tengo is really fun... check these out, if you have time:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtBDlN...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBZrBi...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qjV4O... (thi..."


Hah! The video for Tom Courtenay is amazing..

Sweet, thanks a lot! I love sharing music..


message 39: by Geoff (last edited May 03, 2012 09:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Geoff @ Justin (and all y'all) Yeah, Queneau in general. Zazie In The Metro was written in 1958, Godard released Breathless in 1960 and Truffaut released the 400 Blows in '59, and Zazie (the book) basically foresaw a lot of the stylistic elements of New Wave cinema. So it's presumed the filmmakers were reading his books, like I totally see Godard and Truffaut in Pierrot Mon Ami, Last Days, Zazie, Odile, so many of Queneau's works have that feel...


message 40: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy They have funny videos. This one's funny too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDgpQB...


message 42: by rose vibrations (last edited May 03, 2012 09:29AM) (new) - added it

rose vibrations Justin wrote: ""Did you dudes ever get into Neutral Milk Hotel? I loved them...In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is one of those extra special albums for me that I was talking about earlier. That whole album, from st..."

The lyrics are just absolutely incredible. Mangum is a wonderful songwriter and I love the way he is able to pour out all his raw emotions when he sings his songs as well. The rawness and poignancy in his voice at times really hits me and even stings sometimes..

I love this cover that Mangum does by Phil Spector. I think it really illustrates what I'm saying..

http://youtu.be/z5RMrlfpf18


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

lol at sugarcube


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

What happened to NMH? Did the front guy have a nervous breakdown or something?


rose vibrations Jimmy: I am loving these Yo La Tengo tracks. Blue Line Swinger is fantastic...


rose vibrations Justin wrote: "What happened to NMH? Did the front guy have a nervous breakdown or something?"

I think the band went on a really long hiatus and then eventually ended up breaking up, but then Mangum played a few live shows here and there..

He actually just played Coachella back in April! I was swooning over the live videos just as they surfaced on YouTube..


message 47: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez stumbelina wrote: "I think the band went on a really long hiatus and then eventually ended up breaking up, but then Mangum played a few live shows here and there..."

He walked right past me at PsychFest the other night! RIGHT! PAST! ME! He played an ACL Live set here the next evening, but I am too poor so I couldn't go. I did get to see Olivia Tremor Control, though, which is probably why he was there, seeing as he founded that band and whatnot. I was a little starstruck and probably just looked like I was waiting for a doctor to check my tonsils the whole time.


rose vibrations Paquita Maria wrote: "stumbelina wrote: "I think the band went on a really long hiatus and then eventually ended up breaking up, but then Mangum played a few live shows here and there..."

He walked right past me at Psy..."


Ah! I imagine I would've reacted the same way. It's a shame you couldn't make the show, but at least you got to share the same air as him for a brief moment!!

I love watching him play live in videos and whatnot..


message 49: by Paquita Maria (last edited May 03, 2012 08:19PM) (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez I didn't know about the Mangum show until the night of PsychFest, actually. Not like I bought or could have bought either exorbitantly priced ticket, though. A very observant friend caught me getting all homesick and antisocial and thinking about visiting home, and bought me the ticket, basically challenging me as to whether I was so much of a sissy I would go home, wasting his money and missing out on all these bands I love just because I had to go by myself. So I went. Jeff was there alone, too, come to think of it. Oh, I call him Jeff these days, because we're real tight now.


rose vibrations Hah! I'd say..

Did PsychFest have a pretty good line-up? I guess it would be pretty good if Jeff was there. But lots of other goodies I'm assuming? (I'm not too familiar with Olivia Tremor Control, though I have heard some stuff by them that I liked).


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